As the coast-to-coast push to allow college athletes to make money off their names, images and likenesses (NIL) has picked up, a member of the NCAA Division I Council pointed to two upcoming meetings as potentially meaningful.

The first will happen May 19 and the second in late June — or just before the July 1 date NCAA President Mark Emmert emphasized Friday when he told the New York Times he hoped for approval of new NIL guidelines “before, or as close to, July 1.”

That’s the date state laws kick in in five of the 13 states that have passed NIL laws: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico. Arizona has a law starting July 23; Arkansas has a law set for Jan. 1, 2022; and six others have laws to begin after that. Those last six include California, the germinator of the national movement with its Senate Bill 206 that passed in September 2019 and will activate Jan. 1, 2023, and that addled other states with fear of recruiting disadvantages.

While the states have made their laws, differing from state to state to state in standards and in leeway for the athletes, and other state legislatures have begun crafting their bills, the NCAA has been pursuing its own framework for how the new system would work, all while leaders have hoped for help from Congress to provide a blanket methodology.

The two Division I Council meetings will attempt to hammer out some of the NCAA’s ideas for how it would manage the new system, explained Shane Lyons, the athletic director at West Virginia and one of the 40 members of the Division I Council. The changes would depart from the age-old system that stood for more than a century and limited the athletes to tuition, room and board in terms of compensation. Any Council approvals would then need final approval from the Division I Board of Directors.

The first meeting will address the issue of a third-party entry that will manage the new system “kind of like a clearinghouse,” Lyons said. Through that clearinghouse, schools and athletes would be able to register to track an athlete’s deals, market values, associated companies and other details. Lyons sees it as “kind of like an extension of compliance.”

“It’s going to be a time crunch to get it in,” he said, “but I think possibly in May we’ll have a third-party entry.”

The second meeting, coming just before July 1, could yield the legislation for how the new system will function. In practice, those new rules would join a national patchwork of arrangements.

“Obviously if a state has a law more liberal than the NCAA, then I guess they would be able to work off their state laws,” Lyons said. For states still lacking such laws, the NCAA’s guidelines could serve as the standards.

“That doesn’t mean also we couldn’t continue working with Congress and getting this into Congress, for federal legislation sometime this summer,” Lyons said. “And even if it happens several months into the fall, then we would all be singing from the same hymnal.”

The NCAA had hoped to vote on a formal approval of its proposal for NIL changes in January but delayed that vote after the Department of Justice brought up potential antitrust issues. At that time, Emmert expressed frustration to the Associated Press and called the delay “a pause, not a stoppage or a cancellation,” long after worrying the new national push constituted “an existential threat” to the college-sports model. Council chair and Brown Athletic Director Grace Calhoun said then in a statement, “The Council remains fully committed to modernizing Division I rules in ways that benefit all student-athletes. Unfortunately, external factors require this pause, and the Council will use this time to enhance the proposals.”

Even after prospective passage, issues will emerge, both foreseen and unforeseen. “Right now, there are a lot of unanswered questions that will start to come to light in the coming months,” Lyons said. “We’ll learn a lot as we go through this together.”

For example, he said, “I think the thing that comes to mind first and foremost is: What’s the involvement of boosters? I think that’s a concern of many people, the restrictions on booster involvement, with what that entails.”

“We have to get our arms around that,” he added.

He also looked at past changes that seemed convulsive but wound up blasé and wondered whether the same might go for NIL changes.

“I think a lot of people out there think there’s masses of student-athletes who will be having all their deals,” he said, but asked: “Are there hundreds of thousands of student-athletes? I’m not quite sure.” He saw his own campus of 500 student-athletes and wondered whether even a dozen would be able to capitalize. “I’m not going to say some student-athletes aren’t going to capitalize,” he said, soon adding: “But do I think it’s going to be raining dollars across the board? That remains to be seen.”

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